New planet Gliese 581g has garnered a lot of attention in recent months. In September 2010, announcement of the new planet set in a ‘habitable zone’ orbiting known red dwarf star Gliese 581 set global society a flurry with wonderment.
When the news broke many speculated that this new planet was a “second earth”. Questions immediately were spurned. Was there life on Gliese 581g? If so, what kind?
At the time of the discovery the scientists, who had been tracking the planet’s vicinity looking for 11 years, felt the possibility of life was very probable since the planet resides in a zone that is not too hot, not too cold, and has a rocky surface with temperatures that would support liquid water being present.
The scientists that discovered the planet felt confident that the odds of life being present on Gliese 531g was high, and while members of the discovery team personally felt certain life could be found, experts did not go as far to say they had found confirmed life. That being said, another scientist came forward and claimed he has found proof of extraterrestrial life on Gliese 581g.
Ragbir Bhathal, a scientist at the University of Western Sydney, says he found evidence of possible life back in 2008. He says he found a “suspicious pulse of light” coming from the same area of the galaxy where the location of Gliese 581g is believed to be. Bhathal says the light appeard to be a sharp signal, “sort of a laser lookalike thing which is the sort of thing we’re looking for – a very sharp spike. And that is what we found”. (FOX News)
This claim was met with a lot of skepticism across the scientific community.
SETI pioneer Frank Drake, who developed a formula which bears his name to calculate the number (N) of alien civilizations, is even skeptical. While Drake is firmly involved with SETI explorations, he said when Bhathal was asked for proof, this request was not met, which shed some suspicion in his opinion.
So was an alien signal or not? Possibly, possibly not. Why Blathal did not earlier share his discoveries prior to the finding of Gliese 581g is one query, and why he seemingly is unwilling to share verifications now is another. Society may not know any time soon, if ever, whether or not life resides on Gliese 581g. At this time, some scientists are even questioning the findings that the new planet exists.
As technology and ability to explore the depths of space continue to improve, perhaps one day this, and other questions about the universe, can be answered.